From blindside to stateside for Boks
New coach Erasmus to take the team to the US to play Wales a week before their England Test
A new Springbok era under coach Rassie Erasmus will not start against England at Ellis Park on June 9 as expected, but a week earlier against Wales in Washington DC.
The match – the first time the Boks will face tier-one opposition on neutral ground outside the Rugby World Cup – was confirmed by the event’s hosts, Rugby International Marketing, the commercial arm of USA Rugby, on Monday.
Kick-off is scheduled for 11pm South African time in the Robert F Kennedy Stadium.
The encounter against Wales takes place a week before a three-Test home series against England starts.
Travelling to the US for a one-off Test so soon before they meet Eddie Jones’s team is an indication that income and brand building appear to be superseding player welfare and short-term success.
Erasmus, who is set to be unveiled as Springbok coach on Wednesday, will be grateful for the chance to have his team play together before meeting England, who have won 24 of 26 Tests under Jones.
But traversing the globe while England will already be in SA preparing for the first Test at Ellis Park could have negative effects on the Boks’ preparations and take away some advantage they might have had going into the first Test against England.
At this stage it is unclear how Erasmus will juggle his players for the Washington clash, which falls outside World Rugby’s designated Test window.
That means players contrac-ted to overseas clubs will not be eligible for the game.
But SA’s Super Rugby franchises are not involved in the tournament that weekend, although there are fixtures in the New Zealand and Australian Conferences. The Bok squad to play Wales will therefore be exclusively drawn from locally based players.
The June 2 meeting will be the 34th Test between SA and Wales, with the Springboks having won 28 Tests and lost four with one drawn, for a winning rate of 85%.
The match — the first between two top-tier teams in the US capital – was announced on Monday at a special cere-mony at the South African embassy in Washington DC.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, said the Boks were delighted to play against Wales on US soil.
"The match in Washington allows us to take Springbok rugby to America and to potentially expand the team’s appeal to a very large audience," said Roux.
Research showed the Boks to have a growing global fan base "and we see the match in Washington as an ideal platform to tap into a market that offers huge possibilities for South African rugby".